4/11/2013 12:32:00 PM City council hears from citizens
opposed to dissolving police dept.
by DENISE MARTIN
The North Branch council chambers was standing room only Monday night as citizens spoke during public forum, and dozens of others applauded their remarks, opposing preliminary talks with the sheriff about contracting for law enforcement. In an apparent budget cutting effort council has directed city administrator Bridgitte Konrad to look into buying hourly deputy services and disbanding the police department.
There hasn’t been an agenda item on the viability of dissolving the department for council action yet, but rumors are all over town. The gist of what 13 speakers commented on at the public microphone, was that the city needs to move forward and dissolving the department is a step backwards. Several residents spoke of their personal interaction with North Branch Police and how pleased they were with the pro-active nature of policing and quick response by officers. William Kraft promised if the police are disbanded the council members would not get re-elected in the next election. Jason Russell said even looking into disbanding the department is an “embarrassment” and asked council to rethink its approach.
Deputy and resident, Chris Toma, commented that the sheriff’s personnel would do a very fine job. But North Branch is of the population density and activity level where a police chief, hired by the city council, would be more accountable at implementing exactly what the community needs. He said under the county contract North Branch will pick and choose services, like an a la carte menu, altering forever the comprehensive and connected policing that North Branch citizens have come to know. Mayor Ron Lindquist allowed plentyof time for all public comments and then moved on to the regular agenda. Ironically, the regional director for the National Highway Transportation and Highway Administration Dept. of Traffic Safety’s, Towards Zero Deaths program, was in North Branch to present an award to the police Monday night. The department was recognized for participation in the program that funds extra patrol during traffic law enforcement saturations.
The program’s northeast Minnesota liaison Frank Scherf, said North Branch “did an exceptional job during mobilizations” and submitted reports in a timely manner. The department chose to be rewarded with four PBT units, valued about $700 each. The Preliminary Breath Test devices were presented at the council meeting. In other matters: citizens forming a beautification group, represented by Laura Scarmell and her daughter Christine, showed the council welcoming banners the organization wants to hang around town. The group got the okay from council to keep working on the project. The ladies said they hope to do garden/flowerbed projects and other improvements in town. Planning and Zoning has a number of ordinance revisions under consideration.
Upcoming public hearings include: how to regulate asphalt plants, chicken-keeping in town, one acre lots in unsewered areas, and Monday April 15 there’s a hearing on billboards, off site signage, and freestanding signs. Check the city website or call city hall for announcements of planning commission hearings dates and times. Council also approved a quote for a supply of calcium chloride, from Enviro Tech at 83 cents per gallon.
~ Crack seal services were approved from Farner Asphalt at $1.55 per pound.
~ Gravel is budgeted at $110,000 and the quote was approved at $9.19 per ton from Bjorklund Cos.